‘Unacceptable’ number of children living in poverty, says Minister

New €5 million fund to tackle disadvantage in urban areas and provincial towns

  Ella  McPhillips (10 months) with Ministers  Michael Ring and   Paschal Donohoe at the launch of the €5 million Rapid fund in Dublin.  Photograph: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

Ella McPhillips (10 months) with Ministers Michael Ring and Paschal Donohoe at the launch of the €5 million Rapid fund in Dublin. Photograph: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

 

The number of children living in poverty in the State “is unacceptable,” Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe has said.

Speaking at the announcement of a €5 million fund to tackle disadvantage in urban areas and provincial towns, he rejected the suggestion it was insufficient to tackle child poverty.

The Rapid (Revitalising Areas by Planning, Investment and Development) fund, which operated until 2012 when it was wound down, is being restarted this year with a fund that will be split between €2 million going to areas outside Dublin and €2.5 million into disadvantaged areas in Dublin. Some €500,000 is being committed to legacy projects from the previous Rapid programme.

The proportion of children in consistent poverty almost doubled during the recession, from 6.3 per cent in 2008 to 11.2 per cent (130,000 children) in 2015. Some 18.3 per cent of children in lone-parent households were in consistent poverty.

Mr Donohoe said the Rapid funding stream could make “a really big difference”, particularly in communities such as Dublin’s northeast inner city, where the new fund was announced on Thursday. He said it was one aspect of a wider effort to support disadvantaged communities.

“While Rapid funding will make a big contribution to that, we’re also looking at new ways we can support community employment, regenerate the physical environment here.”

Affordable childcare

Asked whether it was enough, given the child poverty figures, he said: “You are right, it is unacceptable the number of children who are living in poverty at the moment. It’s an indicator that is as important to me as the rate of unemployment.

“And while more recently we saw more children leave the measurement of absolute poverty it’s still more children than is acceptable at the moment. We want to see this change,” he said, adding that targeted social welfare increases had been part of last month’s budget.

“We have some work under way here in Dublin 1 to see how we can make CE [community employment] schemes more attractive and sustainable for people working on them. It is an area that I believe needs more political leadership and focus.

“We are also in the early stages now of supporting Minister [for Children and Youth Affairs] Katherine Zappone in the rollout of an affordable childcare scheme. I believe and know we are going to make progress on that in coming years.”